If Elmhurst City Council members approve the 2012-'13 budget April 16, they likely also will be deciding to add a full-time assistant city manager position. Aldermen Monday continued to debate the need for a second-in-command for City Manager Jim Grabowski, and those who believe the job is needed prevailed over those who did not.
Currently, Mike Kopp serves as both assistant city manager and fire chief. Last month, Grabowski for giving Kopp the assistant position on a full-time basis, telling aldermen that Kopp's experience made him the right candidate for the job.
About $150,000 has been budgeted for the position, including the city's portion of the hire's participation in the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund. The actual salary and benefits will be about $125,000.
Early in the discussion, 1st Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf moved to strike the position from the budget, a move that was supported only by fellow 1st Ward Alderman Paula Pezza and 3rd Ward Alderman Michael Bram.
“I cannot support putting another position on the taxpayers' backs,” Pezza said.
She emphasized on Tuesday that after Kopp retires, he will receive his fire chief pension, and the new position would allow him to build a second city pension.
Bram said Monday his constituents were asking why the job was needed, and Gutenkauf tried to steer the conversation away from Kopp, focusing just on the merits of making the job full time.
But aldermen who supported creating the position said they could not separate the need for the job from the fact that the right candidate was in the room. Fourth Ward Alderman Kevin York noted that Grabowski had said when he was hired that he would evaluate the need for the position and, if it was needed, he would find a way to pay for it. This was done by eliminating positions in the building and police departments, York said.
“I believe City Manager Grabowski has done everything that has been asked of him and more,” York said.
York cited the need for the city to focus more on economic development and finding efficiencies in information technology, as well as the anticipated move to a calendar-year budgeting system, as reasons for the need for more "horsepower" on the administrative staff.
Pezza then proposed keeping Kopp as a part-time manager but giving him a raise, a move that was not supported by a majority of aldermen.
Grabowski added that the move to a full-time assistant on his team would reduce the amount of money the city currently spends on consultants in economic development and other areas.